Photo project

Half-Planisphere, Coffin, Dog Trophies: Things for Sale in the Private Affairs Project

A French photographer Thierry Bouet thought that a website with private ads was a well of rich stories, and started calling the owners of the most unusual things and offering them an advertising shoot.
Thierry Bouët Age 57

As a fashion photographer worked with Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Marie Claire, Vanity Fair. Currently, in addition to working in advertising, is working on his own projects. In 2013, his project, the Parisian Twenties, received a Sony World Photography Award. In 2015, the series Private Affairs was shown during the Les Rencontres d'Arles photo festival, as part of Platforms of the Visible program. The program presented viewers new solutions in documentary photography.

I once witnessed a friend of mine receive an advertisement about the sale of a restaurant. The advertisement included the contact information of the seller, so the purchase could be made without agents or commission. I remember thinking, how much simpler our lives got: before we used to have a crazy number of people participate in business deals, and now you only need your money and the Internet. I wasn’t interesting in buying a business, but I wanted to find something that would entertain me. So I started looking around Le bon coin.

I found the most unexpected and funny things put up for sale. And then called the owners up and offered them an advertising shoot. Some refused adamantly (mostly women, who sold accessories, shoes and makeup on near-commercial scale), and some were up for it. To those who agreed, I came with the ready idea about the object and the story for the shoot. Many scripts were rewritten on the spot, though. I sent the photographs to the owners, but not one of them has used them for commercial purposes — nobody added them to their advertisements. People just thanked me and left the photographs they took there, thinking they looked more professional or were more appropriate for the occasion.

I wasn’t interesting in buying a business, but I wanted to find something that would entertain me. So I started looking around Le bon coin.

My stories turned out very real: they were not as much about objects, as about the turns of fate, and human whims and weaknesses. For instance, a math professor miscalculated the amount of wallpaper she needed for her child’s bedroom and was trying to sell a couple of the remaining rolls to someone. Meanwhile, her children painted the new wallpaper with the indelible ink of felt pens. Another example: a nurse’s aid once had to put a coffin in his house, and it served as a decoration for a couple more years — it has been put up for sale only because the owner is moving. Sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction.

Italian Riding Boots, €200, Paris


Fitting Room, €6,000 Paris


PC for Virtual Currency, €850, Paris


Pastis Glasses, €8, Crest


Half-Planisphere, €300, Noiseau


Dog Trophies, €100, Crécy-la-Chapelle


Diving Gear, €1,000 Villecresnes


Farrow & Ball Wallpaper, €100, Paris


Coffin, €500, Oignies


High-Wing Airplane, €32,000, Sartrouville


Photographs courtesy Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow. 11th International Month of Photography in Moscow PHOTOBIENNALE-2016 closes on July 16, 2016.

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